Michael Wilson

  • diary May 31, 2016

    Bee Season

    TO THE FATHER of a four-year-old embroiled in the scramble for public pre-K slots, the idea of traveling two hours out of the city on a moist but still promising Sunday morning to attend an exhibition opening at a school felt distinctly masochistic. Should I be packing medical forms and trip disclaimers? A lunch box filled with nutritious, peanut-free snacks? The press bus waiting outside Jack Shainman Gallery in Chelsea, into which we were shepherded by a knot of clipboard-wielding PR peeps, did little to dispel the feeling that this was to be an excursion with a nostalgically pedagogical cast.

  • Maryam Jafri

    Precious few artists, even in the wake of modernism’s varying efforts to demystify and deconstruct originality, would wish to see their work labeled “generic.” Maryam Jafri is a notable exception. Of course, it is not Jafri’s project itself that bears this dour tag, but rather the curious subgenre of consumer good that she depicts and reproduces. In a flawlessly realized installation of small photographs and objects (most purchased, some reconstructed using photographs adhered to boxes), Jafri explored the phenomenon of the unbranded product, prompting a rereading of these minimally packaged

  • Lisa Holzer

    “To be a funny mom was what I wanted above all to be when I became a mom a few years ago. And ‘Be a funny mom’ seemed to be an ideally inept title for this show, my first one in New York. Hey there!” The cheerily self-conscious tone of Lisa Holzer’s statement about her recent exhibition at this small space, squirreled away in a maze of small offices, hews courageously near to the embarrassing; one can imagine her offspring finding it all mortifying in a scant few years, and they wouldn’t be entirely in the wrong. Yet on the evidence of this tight grouping of photographs (with textual and other

  • Penelope Umbrico

    Like words repeated over and over until they sound like the utterances of an alien tongue, Penelope Umbrico’s images are fascinating for their exploration of the differences between multiple photographs of the “same” subject—for the fact that no two shots can ever accurately be described as identical. Her true subject is thus not that which is pictured in her appropriated snaps, but the personal-social circumstances and technological-commercial processes through which they were arrived at. Pre-Internet, hers would have been a much tougher, perhaps impossible, undertaking. Now, the very

  • Josh Tonsfeldt

    In Josh Tonsfeldt’s recent exhibition “Adrenaline,” images had a curious, often fugitive relationship to their sources, supports, and meanings. The New York–based artist prints photographs onto a variety of fragile-seeming surfaces and employs unusual processes such as hydrography to investigate the visual, conceptual, and emotional arenas of everyday life as mediated by the ubiquitous electronic screen. “Familiarity becomes something slippery in the timespan of making a picture,” he writes, characterizing this mutable relationship as “a machine-body behavior ready to play itself out in situations

  • Jason Simon

    In an age when the entire history of recorded music is just a click away, it’s tempting to dismiss radio as a hopelessly antiquated medium. After all, why rely on a DJ when Spotify and iTunes allow you to compile your own playlists? Yet, as is often remarked, the self-curated online/digital experience, for all its potential, can ultimately become isolating. Conventional radio at its best retains the power to establish and strengthen the bonds of community by making a virtue of broadcasters’ idiosyncratic tastes and voices. And local radio can add to that a capacity to respond to specificities

  • diary January 24, 2016

    Quiet Riot

    “DID ANYONE TEACH YOU or did you just...know?”

    “Oh, he just knew.”

    The subject of this admiring if ultimately rather uncomfortable exchange was artist Kenya Hanley, whose funny and engaging drawings were on display in the LAND Gallery booth at the Outsider Art Fair’s Thursday evening vernissage. Hanley, seated rifling through some papers between his two fans, didn’t seem especially taken aback by being discussed in this way, but nor did he feel the need to chime in. Was this perhaps outsider art’s elusive delimiting factor—not a lack of formal training, a sidestepping of irony and fashion, or a

  • diary January 05, 2016

    Dog Days of Winter

    “MAN MOLDED THE DOMESTIC DOG in his own worst image...self-righteous as a lynch mob, servile and vicious, replete with the vilest coprophagic perversions...and what other animal tries to fuck your leg? Canine claims to our affection reek of contrived and fraudulent sentimentality.” So writes a characteristically unforgiving William S. Burroughs in The Cat Inside, his late-career paean to the Internet’s favorite critter. I generally consider myself a cat person too (hi Lyle!), but when my first assignment of the new year saw me huddled in Times Square on a bitterly (if, at last, seasonably) cold

  • Jessica Sanders

    A longtime fan of beeswax owing to its gooey organic mutability, Jessica Sanders exercised admirable restraint with the potentially messy material in her recent exhibition “Ambiguous Warmth.” Her first solo appearance at this relocated gallery, the show featured just two entries from the Brooklyn artist’s ongoing “Saturation” series, 2013–, of wax-infused linen works, and in neither case was the material’s identity immediately apparent. Hung close together side by side, the pair of large, painterly works faced off against eight small wall-mounted white porcelain sculptures. The first impression

  • Sue de Beer

    “He never talked about where he was from. At the funeral, that was the most I ever heard about his life.” So begins the spoken narrative of Sue de Beer’s new two-channel video The Blue Lenses, 2014, which tells the story of Daniel, a con artist, in part through the account of a young Arab woman. Borrowing the title of a 1959 short story by the British author Daphne du Maurier in which a woman’s eye surgery mysteriously causes her to see people with fearsome animal heads in place of their own, de Beer’s beguiling tale also deals in confused appearances and assumed roles.

    The work’s abutted

  • Fiona Connor

    The fountain has a storied and—given its outwardly prosaic nature—oddly auspicious history in modern and contemporary art: from Duchamp’s foundational icon (actually a urinal, of course) to more recent examples including Bruce Nauman’s gushing self portrait of 1966–67; Helen Chadwick’s excremental chocolate-lover’s dream/nightmare Cacao, 1994; and the spouting-nippled Christ that formed the centerpiece of Robert Gober’s solo exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2005. Something about this technically simple bit of plumbing—perhaps owing to its sometimes-awkward fusion of humble

  • Rosa Aiello

    “Just walk in a straight line. . . . Go ahead, forward. . . . Proceed straight ahead, go on, go on. . . .” Though sometimes indistinct, at one point dropping to an intimate but distorted whisper, the voice-over in Rosa Aiello’s video A River in It, 2015, doesn’t let up for more than a few seconds of the work’s nearly ten-minute duration. Directing its unseen subject (the viewer?) ever onward, it varies in tone from reassuring (“Whoops, careful. . . . It’s OK, go ahead”) to official (“At this time, keep going straight”) to impatient (“Don’t stop! Why are you stopping?”) to bullying (“You have no

  • Julia Wachtel

    In Stripe, 2014, the friezelike centerpiece of her recent exhibition “Empowerment,” Julia Wachtel pairs silk-screened images of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un with painted cartoons of South Korean pop star Psy, singer of the once ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.” The juxtaposition is cemented visually by the gray band that gives the work its title. In comparing these figures, the artist prompts us to ask where real power lies—totalitarian military might or Web-age celebrity—and how the mass media work to reinforce or undermine its status. It’s an area that Wachtel, influenced by the

  • diary August 02, 2015

    Everything Is Everything

    AS THE ESTABLISHED New York art world decamps to the Hamptons and beyond, crowds at the season’s concluding events tend to be smaller, noticeably younger, and, arguably, more carefree; when the carnival leaves town, the pressure’s off. What degree of rigor can one realistically demand when the dog days hit and any given destination is rated by the efficacy of its air-conditioning? The recent launch of Everything, a suite of public sculptures by Stockholm-born, New York–based artist Hanna Liden, organized by Art Production Fund, didn’t even have the luxury of an indoor location, so there was a

  • diary June 30, 2015

    Dream a Little Dream

    PROHIBITED FROM SPEAKING, applauding, taking photographs, making recordings, eating, drinking, or—in observance of a traditional Indian custom—pointing their feet in the direction of the performers, the crowd at the first of three concerts of raga darbari (a variant on the Indian classical form) given by minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young and his Just Alap Raga Ensemble at the Dia Center’s Twenty-Second Street Chelsea digs on a recent Friday evening was never going to start much of a party. Fortunately, the 150-odd studious attendees seemed perfectly content with the demands imposed on them, happy

  • Athanasios Argianas

    In his sophomore exhibition at this gallery, “Swimmer’s Arms Are Oars,” the Athens-born Athanasios Argianas continued to explore “the space between the senses” in an elegant group of sculptures, photographs, and works on paper that jibe with his dual roles of visual artist and electroacoustic-pop composer. Argianas’s practice combines a fascination with the resonance of fragmented language—the shards of text that he incorporates (often almost invisibly) into his objects evoke snatches of overheard conversation—with a sensitivity to physical proportion and the interaction of built

  • Molly Smith

    While the claim to have merged art and life is a perennial and universal cliché, it rarely holds water, functioning more often as a highfalutin excuse for doing nothing much. But when a change in an artist’s practical circumstances—whether planned or accidental—forces her creative practice and day-to-day routine into closer-than-usual proximity, the results can prove serendipitously engaging. On the evidence of Molly Smith’s recent exhibition “Hours,” this holds true in the relocation of the artist and her partner to rural western Massachusetts in the spring of 2013. The move left

  • Kamau Amu Patton

    In Kamau Amu Patton’s recent exhibition, chaotic input gave rise to surprisingly orderly results. Using electronic feedback as a generative force work, Patton allowed the technological to bleed into the more outwardly organic, showing multilayered prints rendered from screen grabs of a video produced by training a camera on a monitor receiving that camera’s signal. He also employed sound, broadcasting a related audio piece, via FM radio, into the gallery space and beyond.

    Occupying the walls of the main gallery were seven large, scroll-like, unstretched canvases silk-screened—three times

  • Ryan McNamara

    “This guy,” says Ryan McNamara, holding up a small black-and-white photographic cutout, “was a contestant in a dance contest I held in Buenos Aires. The entire dance floor was full of 150 people all melting on top of each other and rolling all over each other.” The fond recollection, and the frenetic clip that follows it, appears in a video on McNamara’s website in which the artist introduces his practice, a singular blend of image- and object making, dance and performance, choreography and participation. McNamara’s recent exhibition “Gently Used” may have seemed like an odd fit for this uptown

  • Jason Kraus

    Titled “Finished Objects,” Jason Kraus’s recent exhibition certainly had a degree of polish, in that the show also incorporated mass-produced artifacts that are “finished” insofar as they have already been manufactured, bought, sold, and sometimes used—but these sculptural groupings are hardly an end point. Rather, they represent just the most recent stage in a system of acquisition, combination, and presentation that extends back to previous bodies of work and seems unlikely to stop with this one. The show’s five pieces, all from 2014, were assemblages of consumer goods encased in shelving